Widely recognised as Australia's most popular poet, Bruce Dawe was born in Fitzroy, Victoria in 1930 and was educated at Northcote High School, Melbourne. After leaving school at 16, he worked in various occupations (labourer, farmhand, clerk, sawmill-hand, gardener and postman) before joining the RAAF in 1959. Upon leaving the RAAF in 1968, Bruce began a teaching career at Downlands College, Toowoomba in 1969. Bruce holds four university degrees (BA, MLitt, MA and PhD), all completed by part-time study.
Bruce was appointed as a Lecturer at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (DDIAE) in 1971; became a Senior Lecturer in 1980 and an Associate Professor following the status change to the University of Southern Queensland. Bruce was also awarded the inaugural DDIAE Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1988. He retired from full-time teaching in 1993 and was appointed as the first Honorary Professor of USQ in recognition of his contribution to the University. He has taught U3A classes ever since his retirement from full-time teaching.
Bruce Dawe was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by USQ for his services to literature in 1995, a Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of New England in 1996, and an Honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of New South Wales in 1997.
Bruce Dawe has published 13 books of poetry, one book of short stories, one book of essays, and has edited two other books. In 2016, at the age of 86, Bruce Dawe published his latest book of poetry: Border Security.
'...in him we have an individual and passionately perceptive writer whose work has already assumed its proper territory and whose terms are directed from the heart as well as the mind.'
- Judith Wright, Poetry No. 4
Many articles have been published dealing with his writing. Adjacent Worlds: A Literary Life of Bruce Dawe, written by Professor Ken Goodwin, was published by Longman Cheshire in 1988. A study of his work written by Peter Kuch was published in the Oxford Australian Authors series in 1995. A further study of his work, Attuned to Alien Moonlight: the Poetry of Bruce Dawe, by Dennis Haskell, UQP, was published in 2002. There are also 12 study guides for students of his work written by various authors.
Bruce has received numerous awards for his poetry including: the Ampol Arts Awards for Creative Literature (1967), the Grace Leven Poetry Prize (1978), the Braille Book of the Year (1979), the Myer Poetry Prize (1965, 1968), the Patrick White Literary Award (1980), the Christopher Brennan Award (1984). In 1984, Dawe's collected edition, Sometimes Gladness, was named by the National Book Council as one of the 10 best books published in Australia in the previous 10 years and is presently in its 5th edition.
In 1990 he was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship of Rotary International. In 1992, Dawe was awarded the Order of Australia (AO) for his contribution to Australian literature. In 1997 he was awarded the Inaugural Philip Hodgins Medal for Literary Excellence. In 200 he was awarded an Art Council Emeritus Writers Award for his long and outstanding contribution to Australian literature. In 2003 Dawe was awarded a Centenary Medal ‘for distinguished service to the arts through poetry’.
In addition to Border Security (2016), Dawe's most recent books are: This Side of Silence: Poems, 1987-1990; Bruce Dawe: Essays and Opinions (1990); Mortal Instruments: Poems, 1990-1995; Sometimes Gladness: Collected Poems, 1954-1997; A Poet's People (1999) and The Headlong Traffic - poems and prose monologues (2003) (all published by Addison Wesley Longman). During 2002, the first of his children's books were published by Penguin: No Cat - and That's That, and The Chewing Gum Kid, both of which are already in reprint. A third children's book, Show and Tell, also by Penguin, was published in 2003. A fourth children's book, Luke and Lulu was published by Penguin in 2004. A chapbook, Towards a War: Twelve Reflections was published by Picaro Press in 2003 by Peter Lang. A German language edition of Dawe's poems, Hier und Anderswo (Here and Elsewhere), translated by Emeritus Professor Manfred Jurgensen, was published in 2003 by Peter Lang.
Bruce Dawe wrote the lyrics for the children's theatre play, Aesop's Fables, performed in the Arts Theatre, USQ, Toowoomba in April 2000. He also wrote the lyrics for the musical play, Muscle Dance, based on the life of polio crusader, Sister Elizabeth Kenny. This was performed in the Empire Theatre, Toowoomba in early August the same year. Dawe has also written the lyrics for the play for secondary schools, Invisible Rivers. He is presently working on the lyrics for a musical based on the life of Houdini.